Marijuana: Dependence and Addiction

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Physical Dependence vs. Addiction:

Physical dependence refers to when a drug user’s body normalizes / gets used to the presence of the drug; thus the user only “functions normally” when the drug is used and present in the body. Physical dependence is common with the chronic / prolonged use of marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms (physical symptoms when the dosage of a drug is seriously lowered or abruptly interrupted) can be experienced by those who are physically dependent on marijuana.

Addiction refers to behaviours which meet the criteria for substance dependence as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  The addict’s mind does not accept abstinence (non-use) from the drug of choice and consciously forces the user to get more of the drug or even to increase the usage and amount of the drug so as to intensify the effect. Addictive behaviour is characterised by a pre-occupation, compulsive need to use a drug. Addiction is psychological in nature whereas physical dependence is a condition which can be overcome following a period of withdrawal.

Physical Dependence and Addiction to Marijuana:

Clinical evidence shows that marijuana withdrawal symptoms manifest following a period of dependency and that marijuana users qualify for diagnostic criteria of addiction.

Many find it hard to equate marijuana with addiction especially with its increasing use as a medicinal and recreational drug. However, the following is a list of the most common physical signs of marijuana dependence and addiction:

  • aggression
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • craving
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • mood changes
  • raise in temperature
  • restlessness
  • sweating

Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one. 

Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).


Adapted from: 

Physical Addiction to Marijuana – Addictionblog.org and Dependence on Marijuana – Addictionblog.org 

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